Radio North Angus is a company limited by guarantee that operates an Independent Local Radio Station on a voluntary basis, in the county of Angus, Scotland. The Service was co-founded by Malcolm Finlayson and Ian Clark, who had previously been involved in broadcasting from 1969, and had operated a radio station from 1973.
Radio North Angus, (RNA), commenced broadcasting by closed circuit transmissions at Stracathro Hospital, by Brechin, on 9 January 1979, with a two tier music based format, whereby specialist music was broadcast daily between 1830 and 1930 hours, followed by requests between 1930 and 2200 hours. The success of the Station created a demand for similar services in other Angus hospitals, but distances between these centres and Stracathro made the concept of landline rental prohibitive. Consequently, it was decided to establish a system of stand alone Stations, and the Arbroath Infirmary and Forfar Infirmary Radio Stations commenced broadcasting on 28 October 1980 and 3 June 1985 respectively. The smaller Angus hospitals were catered for by means of out-housed mobile control desks at Whitehills Hospital, Forfar, Brechin and Montrose Infirmaries, and Little Cairnie Hospital, Arbroath being utilised on a fortnightly basis in wards and day areas.
RNA goes FM
During 1995, Radio Lonsdale, the Barrow-in-Furness Hospital Broadcasting Service, was commissioned by the Radio Authority to conduct experimental FM transmissions, with a view to a wavelength being allocated for hospital broadcasting use, which would vastly improve reception by recipients who were hitherto restricted to hospital internal broadcasting closed circuit systems. The pilot broadcasts were successful, and RNA subsequently acquired licences for the Arbroath and Stracathro Radio Stations, commencing broadcasting in Spring 1996 on 87.7 FM, with an output power of 50 milliwatts, becoming the second British and first Scottish Hospital Broadcasting Service to use freely radiating radio transmissions. Although being designed specifically for hospitals, the broadcasts were audible on domestic receivers for two miles, which created a demand from the population of Arbroath for a local radio service.
A statement of intent was lodged with the Radio Authority for the provision of a Service for an area of Angus, and, having undergone a competitive process, RNA became the first Hospital Broadcasting Service to be allocated an Independent Local Radio licence. The remit is for a wide ranging music based Service to promote health, welfare, voluntary organisations, educational establishments, the local economy, and relief from loneliness. RNA FM, commenced transmissions from Arbroath Infirmary on 96.6FM on 28 November 1998 with a power output of 25 watts. The Station quickly became established as the Local Radio for the Area, with many favourable comments received, and a cost-free service being provided to the NHS, Angus Council, Angus College, Emergency Services, local schools and numerous voluntary organisations, which utilised the opportunity to disseminate information.
In late 1999, the Radio Authority gave approval to an increase in output power, and on 8 February 2000, the level was increased to 200 watts, facilitating transmissions being receivable over a wide area of the County. RNA. continues to operate on entirely a voluntary basis, the aim being to provide a high quality, localised radio service for the benefit of the population, with the slogan “Music and care on air across Angus”.
RNA goes digital
RNA has been included in the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) voluntary access channel, which commenced in 2001, on a shared basis, and can be heard Monday to Friday between 7.30am and 12.00 noon, Saturdays 7.30am to 6.00pm, and Sundays 12.00 noon to 6.00pm.
We are grateful to Bauer Media for this facility, which covers Tayside and North Fife with a population in excess of 400,000.
Carnoustie relay transmitter added
Owing to the topography of the countryside, certain residents in Carnoustie experienced difficulty in receiving a clear signal from the Arbroath FM transmitter. Ofcom granted permission for a relay transmitter to be sited at Carnoustie High School, and transmissions commenced on 16 December 2014 on 107.5 FM which are audible throughout the Carnoustie area and in parts of East Monifieth.
Monifieth relay transmitter added
Ofcom granted permission for a relay transmitter to be sited at Monifieth High School, and transmissions commenced on 14 January 2020 on 105.9 FM which are audible throughout Monifieth and adjacent areas.
The funding was supplied by the Angus Council Power of Youth Initiative where young people aged between 12 and 18 with Young Scot cards voted for the proposal. We are indebted to them and Angus Council, in this respect.
Education Radio Project
The closure of Brechin and Montrose Infirmaries in 2017 instigated the Education Radio Project, unique to British broadcasting.
Since 1996, we have recruited pupils from Arbroath High and Arbroath Academy to present programmes.
The Education Radio Project extends this opportunity to all Angus secondary schools by inviting S4 and S5 pupils, in particular, to apply.
The School’s Out programmes, broadcast between 1600 and 1800, Monday to Friday, afford school students a unique opportunity on British Independent Local Commercial Radio to present their own music radio programmes. The programmes are designed specifically for a teenage audience, whilst giving presenters (DJs) the chance of personal development and to acquire media skills and to gain self-confidence. The voluntary service is regarded favourably by prospective employers and by University selection panels, and can be included as community service for all levels of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Saltire Awards, etc. Recordings can be made at the studios with the opportunity of live programming.
Training in music radio production, consisting of seven sessions, is mainly held between 4.00pm to 6.00pm once a week, but other times can be arranged. Thereafter, there are practice sessions during which the first programme is composed, which is pre-recorded. Sharing of a programme with a school friend is a possibility. The presenters then proceed to live or pre-recorded programming, depending on their availability. Programmes at times other than School’s Out are occasionally available.
The commitment is to present a programme once a week for at least one year. Arrangements can be made to avoid any conflict with study for examinations.
Music radio is enjoyable, fun, and we welcome expressions of interest.
Initial contact should be made by phone to Malcolm Finlayson, Managing Director, Radio North Angus Ltd, 01241 871446, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To accommodate the project, the Brechin and Montrose transmitters were transferred to Brechin Community Campus and Montrose Academy respectively, and the Montrose studio transferred to the Academy. A new studio was created in Carnoustie High School, and accommodation has been allocated for a studio within Brechin High. However construction has been delayed owing to the Covid 19 restrictions, but it is intended that the studio shall be operational by late summer 2021.
A restricted service transmitter opened at Monifieth High on 1 February 2019.
We are grateful to Margo Williamson, Chief Executive, Pauline Stephen, Head of Secondary Schools and Learning, Barry Ormond, IT Department, and Head Teachers Archie Bathgate (Brechin), Donald Currie (Carnoustie), M C McInally (Monifieth), Malcolm Smart (Montrose), and former Head Teacher Fraser Booth (Carnoustie), for their assistance, in this respect.
Programmes are entirely local and broadcast between 5.30am to 2.00am from Sunday to Friday, and 5.30am to 3.30am on Saturday. There are ten programme streams per day. The purpose of the early morning and late night programming is principally to provide entertainment and company to people experiencing loneliness. Outwith the programming a sustaining service of continuous music is broadcast. News is broadcast frequently.
RNA FM offers a diverse range of programming and presenters. In this respect, a system of one presenter, and occasionally two presenters for each of the 54 programmes per week has been adopted, with programmes being of 1½, 2 and 2½ hours duration, the exceptions being the Church Service of 1 hour duration, and the Music and Sport programme lasting 4 hours, which includes football commentaries.
Presenters are trained to develop a natural, person-to-person style, and to identify closely with the local population, in order to accord with the statement “RNA – radio at its natural best”.
The membership is in the order of 50 to 60, as a significant number of volunteers are required to maintain the policy of 54 weekly programmes. A number of the volunteers have been involved in broadcasting for substantial periods. All programming is conducted by our own volunteers.
Certain past presenters have successfully pursued careers in professional broadcasting that has included the BBC and British and American commercial radio. Prospective presenters are given a thorough training, and potential members are invited to contact the Managing Director, Malcolm J. B. Finlayson at info@radionorthangus. co.uk
Operational costs are extremely low, owing to the voluntary nature of the organisation, and accommodation being provided in hospitals. The NHS supplies a recurring Grant, which equates to 25% of the revenue costs, and a further 25% is derived from fund-raising activities such as collections, and the supply of music/commentary at events. The balance is met from low cost advertising, which is specifically designed to avoid displacement to the livelihood of individuals employed in the professional media.
Since inception, RNA has enjoyed substantial financial support from the NHS, Grant Issuing bodies, and organisations and individuals in the local area, which is appreciated.
In October 2017, joint advertising with Mearns FM was introduced, providing an opportunity for advertising along a 70 mile stretch of the east coast of Scotland from east Monifieth to Portlethen, south of Aberdeen which contains 90,000 residents.
However, individual advertising continues on both stations.
The Arbroath and Stracathro stations each have two studios, whilst the Montrose station has one studio. 14 channel Alice Air 2000 consoles are in situ in the Arbroath studios, a 12 channel Alice Air 2000 console and a 8 channel Korg console are in Studios 1 and 2 Stracathro respectively, and a 8 channel Sonifex S2 console is in the Montrose station.
Ancillary studio equipment is mainly Sony and Technics. The seven transmissions systems consist of SBS and Broadcast Warehouse transmitters and amplifiers etc. which were installed by Andy Bantock, Station Z, the late Chas Mackinnon, CMAC Electronics, and Martin Hobson, E-Tech, to whom RNA is grateful.
Health Care in Britain is evolving into a Community, rather than a Hospital based Service, with the concept being that patients should only be admitted when absolutely necessary. Fewer inpatients, selective admission policies, early discharge schemes, coupled with increasing numbers of individuals being catered for by the NHS, Local Authorities, and the Private Health Care Sector, in Community and Domiciliary settings, has depleted audiences being served by the traditional method of closed circuit hospital broadcasting in Angus.
Devised and pioneered by Radio North Angus, the Health Care Radio model, which transformed the Arbroath Infirmary Hospital Radio, with a potential audience of 100, into an Independent Local Radio with a reach in excess of 50,000, offers organisations a template to serve patients within and outwith hospitals, whilst broadening the field of activity to be beneficial to an Area at large, as per the remit of RNA FM, previously described.
Advances in broadcasting technology will allow RNA the opportunity to develop the service further in terms of content, output, and coverage, in order to meet the increasing demands of the audiences.
To acknowledge the numerous organisations and individuals who have lent assistance would be exhaustive, but Radio North Angus appreciates, in particular, the input of the following:
Angus Health and Social Care Partnership
Ronan O’Rahilly, Radio Caroline
Andy Bantock, Martin Hobson, and the late Chas McKinnon, Broadcast Engineers